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July 12, 2005

Jack Nicklaus


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, this week another milestone in the remarkable career of Jack Nicklaus. Before starting the press conference, could I hand it over to Howard Moody, the group director of communications for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

HOWARD MOODY: Good morning to you all. I feel a tad awkward standing here really for two reasons, one, the last thing that you guys, girls want to listen to is a banker, and I fully appreciate that. And secondly, today actually, as far as we're concerned, is about honoring one of sports greats.

I was talking to someone earlier on who was saying that when you talk about legends, you have to be very careful how you use your vocabulary. But there are very, very few sportsmen, who have managed to do it when they're young, middle aged, and just slightly beyond middle age, Jack, and also to have a set of values that Jack has in relation to his integrity. Combining that winning with those values, quite a unique proposition. That's why when we talk about uniqueness, us doing this note to honor Jack is, indeed, very unique, indeed.

There are only two people who have been living who have been on a banknote in the UK. One is the Queen and the other was the Queen Mother. So Jack is the first living person outside the Royal Family to actually be on a banknote.

You'll see here what everyone recognizes as being the Golden Bear. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it's his brand mark, but if you show nine out of ten people, golfers or nongolfers, they'd recognize exactly what that is.

The back of the note is given over solely to Jack. We think it's very fitting. We're actually proud as an organization to be associated with Jack. We've had a very good relationship with him. We've been involved in golf for over a hundred years, so we're not Johnny Come Latelies. So Jack, it's a great privilege for us today to be launching this note for you. Thank you very much.

JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you. Well, being an American and being honored over here is quite a thrill. When Fred Goodwin called me and asked me would this be okay if they did this, I said, Would it be okay? I said that was very flattering in any way, shape or form that RBS would think of me and to honor me in this way. And not only to do it that way, but to do it on currency, but to do it on something that is so special.

Anyway, it was a very, very nice honor for me, and we certainly I thank you very much, much appreciated.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Jack, you won twice, in '70 and '78. How does it feel to be your last Open Championship at St. Andrews, what are your feelings?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't like the way you phrase it. If I win, it wouldn't be my last (laughter).

I guess it's my 8th Open Championship at St. Andrews. And obviously I picked St. Andrews I picked it five years ago, actually. We were at the Champions dinner in 2000, and I fully expected 2000 to be my last time to come here.

And I was talking with Peter Dawson. And Peter and I were just sort of talking along about something, I said it's too bad I said when is The Open coming to St. Andrews again? And he said we haven't announced it yet, but we're thinking about 2006. I said, oh, that's too bad, I'll be past age to be able to play. He said, "That's right. If it happened to be 2005, would you come back?" I said, "Peter, you don't want to do that." Next thing, I turned around and read in the newspaper it was scheduled for 2005. I thought that was an awfully nice compliment. And if The R&A decided that they wanted to make sure that their date was 2005 to coincide with my 65th birthday, I thought that was coincidence. I thought that was a nice honor.

I thought if I would come back and play and have a golf game in some shape, I would certainly do so. For the last few years I've planned it and hoped that 2005 would be my year, and St. Andrews was the place that has meant so much to me in the game of golf and to so many people that that's why I selected it, and I think it's the most appropriate place for me.

Q. I remember in '70 you won, it was sort of like you had not won a major for a couple of years, you were so ecstatic. You threw the putter. You had to win the playoff against Doug. Can you sort of review that and was that sort of a landmark in your career?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well Baltusrol in '67 was the previous win that I had had prior to '70 here. And my father passed away in February of '70 and I sort of looked at myself and I said, you know, you've sort of just gone along. I haven't really worked at it that hard. I won a lot of tournaments in '68 and '9, but I really hadn't I just sort of I think I just got a little lazy. I think everybody goes through periods where they go up and down. My father sort of lived his life for me and any accomplishments and so forth and so on and I think I let him down.

So in '70, after my dad passed away, I said time to get back to work. And of course I got back to work here. I tried and tried at the Masters and U.S. Open and wasn't successful. But when I won here it was a special win for me. And I obviously played very well and it was a bad break for Doug at the 18th hole and it gave me an opportunity to win. And of course, obviously, that turned it around.

And I walked in the pressroom, I'll never forget that here, and Bob Green looked at me and said, "Jack, that's ten major championships. You've only got three more to tie Bobby Jones." And I said, Oh. Honest to gosh truth, I never counted them. And nobody had ever mentioned it before. And I feel a little sorry for Tiger from that standpoint. They started counting him before he won one (laughter). So I had a head start on the number as far as worrying about pressure and that kind of a thing. But that's when that happened.

And from then on I focused on that number 13 and then when I broke it at Canterbury in '73, then I won some more, but I didn't have the drive that I had prior to that.

Q. Peter Dawson was asked earlier this year if there was any type of tribute planned for you. His comment was, "Jack would rather be treated as a competitor than a monument."

JACK NICKLAUS: I appreciate that. I like that comment.

Q. Is that going to be difficult this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: No, that's why I'm here. I'm here as a competitor. And we'll find out whether that competitor can play through to Sunday and try to do the best he can. And once the competition is over for me, from the standpoint whether I'm obviously I still look at a scenario when I walk down somewhere late Sunday afternoon. That's maybe not the most realistic scenario, but I still look at it. At that point in time it will be something different, it will be looking at my last tournament.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about on a conference call you talked about how to place tugs at you a little bit. And I'm wondering about it this week, if you could take us through whether you've had some tugs of emotions, even though the excision hasn't started yet. Have you thought about the last walk over the bridge?

JACK NICKLAUS: The most emotion is right here with you guys asking about it. I don't pay that much attention to it. I don't know. Obviously I've had phone calls from people. I've got a lot of people who have come over to watch and so forth and so on. But I've basically spent most of my time working on a golf game that is somewhat respectable. It hasn't been very respectable this year. I've played horribly.

And a couple of weeks ago a fellow pro, Lee Rinker, watched me and he was back there talking, and talking with the pro at the Bears Club, and they were talking, and you should have seen the shots I was hitting, right, left, fat, thin, just the worst mess of shots you'd ever look at. I said, "Would you let me in on what you're talking about?" He said, "Do you want my two cents' worth?" And I said, "You've seen what I'm hitting. Two cents isn't going to hurt anything." He mentioned to me a little about my body posture, and I've always talked to him about posture, and where I'd been on the ball and where my head was and so forth and so on. And I made that change and actually I've played pretty well, at the Canadian Skins game a week ago, and at home since then, and I played pretty well yesterday.

And actually, I enjoyed the round of golf yesterday a lot because I hit the golf ball decently. When you do that you have a lot more fun. So that's basically what I've been doing.

Q. Just as a follow there, have you at all allowed yourself to think ahead to the last walk over the bridge?

JACK NICKLAUS: I'll worry about that when I get there. That's not an issue for me. That's what I was trying to say.

Q. I read where you had said in your previous 7 Opens here that you spent most of the time in the hotel and rarely ventured out. I wondered, this week, have you had a chance to look around the town? Will you? What's your routine going to be this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: Same as the last. I won't change it any. There's no way that I'm going to get out and walk around the town when I'm at a golf tournament. I've got my times taken up with playing golf. And I hope to come back to St. Andrews some day and maybe come back and walk around the town. I understand it's a very nice place (laughter). I'm being facetious with that, please.

Q. What do you love about The Old Course? And then some thoughts on the bunkering, and as well, the 17th hole?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, The Old Course to me is a very special place just because of what it is, where it is, how it sits here and how it relates to the history of the game of golf. That's what's special. I suppose if you took St. Andrews and put it somewhere else it would be another golf course. But because it's here, because of what it is and what it meant to the game of golf it becomes something very, very special. And the bunkering is very difficult, as you know. There's a lot of bunkers out there you're not going to be out of going forward. We got into a half dozen of them yesterday fiddling around with it, and there are some of them I have no desire to be into, that's for sure.

What was the last part of it?

Q. 17?

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, 17. 17 is 17. They've narrow the fairway down there. And you don't have as much bailout to the left as you used to have, or at least that's what it appears. I assume that's where they narrowed it. But 17 is always a tough hole. It's a par 4 and a half, is the way I look at it, not that it has the length of being a par 4 and a half, but it has the shot values of a par 4 and a half. I play it to the front and take my chances with par. If you challenge the Road or challenge the bunker, the Road Bunker, if you challenge either one of those two, you've probably made a mistake.

Q. Talk about your memories of the first time you played this place and just the difficulty in learning how to master this course.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I go back to 1959 when my father was we were over here for the Walker Cup matches, and my dad came over with three of his friends and they played St. Andrews and we were at Muirfield. He came back and said I said, "How did you enjoy St. Andrews?" He said, "What an awful golf course." He says, "Boy, there's bumps all over the place." Of course he's an American, never played anything over here. And I think it's maybe the first round of golf he ever played over here. All those bumps, the greens were terrible. How in the world did anybody ever putt those things.

So five years later when I came back in '64, I'd heard his expressions and I don't know how I'm going to like this. I fell in love with it the first day I played it. I loved the opening tee shot. I thought I might be able to hit that one in the fairway (laughter) from then on. It just got better. I've always loved it. I don't know all the bunkers, obviously, but I know a fair number of them, and I couldn't I guess not many courses have names, I suppose, but I go through the golf course and I name 15 or 20 bunkers, I suppose on the golf course, which just however they pop out of my head. I would never think of that or dream of that in any other place. And the way they're placed and where they are and the shot values that you have. And the greens, yeah, the greens are really tough. He says the reason that's why they haven't watered the golf course is what it is. If you didn't have the greens the golf course would be a pretty simple thing.

But the greens are very difficult. And I think that's what makes it. You don't play any other golf course like this one. There's just no other golf course that is even remotely close.

Q. The weather forecast is going to be good for the rest of the week. I wonder if in that context, if the weather stays like this, what do you think the winning score might be and why you think it might be that?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I don't know. What did Tiger shoot the last time?

Q. 19 under.

JACK NICKLAUS: That's a good score (laughter). What did he win by?

Q. 8.

JACK NICKLAUS: That's a good score, too. Somewhere in that area. Oh, I think that the score will be, you know, a fair number under par, if you have good weather. I don't know how you can help it. The golf course you're not going to try to defend it with any extra length, or they added length to 4 and 14, that will only affect guys like me. The guys that hit it long, that won't really affect them that much. And the length on the other four holes in length it doesn't really make any difference to them. But it is what it is. And for me it's a great place. It's great fun. And whether they shoot 2 under par or 30 under par, I don't think it really makes a whole lot of difference. It's St. Andrews, and what it is to the game of golf is what's special to me.

Q. You spoke about your father's influence and so forth. You spoke about 1959. When was the first time you ever heard about St. Andrews?

JACK NICKLAUS: Heard about it?

Q. Heard about it. When did Charlie talk about it?

JACK NICKLAUS: He didn't talk about it until 1959 when he played it. Really first heard about St. Andrews, I suppose, was I wouldn't know. I was a kid before I heard about St. Andrews, obviously. I think The Open was played here in '60, when Arnold came over. And I think when did Locke win here? Did Locke win the prior one to that?

Q. Thomson won in '55.

JACK NICKLAUS: Wasn't Locke in '52 where they had the putt incident?

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: Is that right?


JACK NICKLAUS: I think that may be the first time I heard of St. Andrews. But I didn't think anything about it. I have no idea. I didn't really think much about it. I really looked forward to '64 when I was coming. I remember I used to go down to Bob Jones's cabin before The Masters every year, and he talked a little bit about St. Andrews. And the one thing he said, you know, "Your golfing career as a champion is not complete unless you win at St. Andrews." And I always had that in the back of my mind. Actually, it was in the front of my mind (laughter).

Q. A few years ago, I think it was at the Senior PGA, you were paired with Arnie and Gary Player, and you said that made it feel a little more ceremonial, and you were a bit uncomfortable with that. What does playing these first two rounds with Tom and your history, does it make it more special, or is it maybe not a good setup?

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, I think that's fine. Tom is so very competitive. And I certainly hope Luke Donald thinks he's competitive (laughter). And I think that's a very nice pairing. I'm delighted with it. If you've got two old guys that have competed a lot, hopefully will compete again, and you've got a young guy coming up who might well be one of the best young players that you have, or certainly as good a young player as you have over here, who is obviously playing more in the States, I suppose, but I think it's a nice pairing. I'm delighted to have that pairing. I think it will be fun. I certainly hope they don't look at it as a ceremonial pairing, I certainly don't.

Q. What does it mean to have Steve on the bag for your last one here?

JACK NICKLAUS: I enjoy having Steve. A little over a year ago when I said I wanted to play The Masters and The British Open as my last two tournaments, Steve came to me and he said, Dad actually he calls me dad. If he wants something he says Pops. He said, "Pops, hey, Jackie and I have talked and he says he wants The Masters next year and I want The British Open, okay?" I said, okay. That was it. And so I'm delighted to have Steve. Steve caddied for me the last time I played in 2000.

Q. Even though we talk about not being the ceremonial golfer, you actually are both a competitor this week and in some cases a ceremonial golfer. How do you balance that? And are you balancing that at all this week?

JACK NICKLAUS: I sort of answered that over here. I don't really pay much attention to the ceremonial part until it becomes ceremonial, until I no longer become a competitive golfer in it. Sure it will be it will have its moments for me, but it's really it's hard to understand. I don't understand sometimes what goes around in my head. But my head says, hey, I can play this golf course, and I'm going to go play. And that to me is not ceremonial. So as long as my head stays that way, then I'm not worried about the other part of it at this point.

Q. Can you sort of contrast your emotions and your affection for this place and Augusta and what is closer to your heart in some ways, and also your emotions in each of your last major attempts at Pebble and Valhalla, as well?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think Augusta and St. Andrews are my two favorite places in the game of golf. I've said that for many years. And it's hard to separate them in many ways. They're very different. Augusta for Jones, and Jones being my idol as I grew up, the record that I set forth, and so forth and so on, Jones was always who I looked to.

The British Open, I always looked at The Open over here as a championship that was very different. I enjoyed the break. I enjoyed the difference in the golf. I enjoyed the different kind of golf, the seaside golf. It was something that was not my normal forte that and I learned to adapt my game to it, rather than you hear a lot of players say, "I can't play that course." That's a bunch of junk. A good player can play any course. You adapt your game to the golf course. You don't adapt the course to your game.

Those were the things that I always liked about over here, and they always became very special. Here in Scotland, particularly and I think the Scottish public does that pretty much to most all the golfers, but they take you as one of your own. They embrace you very much. The reception that I had here in '66, '72 at Muirfield, '78, all the times we've been here, '84 here at St. Andrews, all the times that I've been here it's always been something very, very special. And that's always been special to me.

So to contrast the two, they're both very special to me. But I thought that I sort of feel very close if The Masters had been after The British Open, I might have done it the other way around, but this is the way it's set on the calendar, and I think that's I feel it's a very appropriate thing to do.

What was the second part of your question?

Q. Your emotions at Pebble Beach and Valhalla.

JACK NICKLAUS: Pebble Beach has been a special place to me, too. If I had one round of golf to play, I'd probably go to Pebble Beach. It's always been a special place to me. I like Pebble Beach a lot.

And Valhalla is obviously the course I did, but it was also the final of our 2000 four majors, and I played with Tiger in the last rounds there, and sort of chopped it around a bit. But it was an enjoyable thing. I can't say that was anything like the others.

Q. I read once where you said something about the Scottish people reminded you of the people in the midwest back home. Is there something about your bond with them, the people here? What is it that does make it special that you felt from the start that you've had a special bond with the Scottish folks?

JACK NICKLAUS: I don't know. I think it's just ever since I came here in the Walker Cup. Actually since '59 I loved it, I enjoyed it, and I've been back ever since then.

I think it's just been they take to all the golfers, too, it's not just me. They take to all the golfers. They like their winners. Over here I think that it's a different sporting public than in the States. The States is a sporting public that has a lot of sports. Here the sporting public, or I should say The Open Championship really draws golfers and people who play golf more so than in the States. And here it just seems to be a more golfing crowd. They appreciate the game of golf. It's their heritage. And that's the way it seems to fall into place for them.

Q. When you know what you're going to do when you've stopped playing at the level that you are now, how good do you think you will be at filling the void created by not playing the sort of golf that we are talking about? Can you assess your

JACK NICKLAUS: I think I'll be really good at it (laughter). I mean, John, I love playing golf. Don't get me wrong, because I do and there's nothing I've enjoyed more in my life than playing golf and being competitive and being part of what's going on. But when you're not part of the competitive part of it, it loses its glow. And I haven't been part of the competitive part of it for several years now, realistically. And to try and somewhat have to keep a golf game in shape, because I'm going to play The Masters next year or play in The British Open next year, or I'm going to play half a dozen senior tournaments or whatever I'm going to do isn't a lot of fun, because you know that you're not playing very well, you don't have any desire to work at it, you know you don't have a game that is going to be what you want. So the glow just sort of falls away from it.

Over the last couple of years I've started to spend more time doing other things and just say the heck with golf for a couple of months, I'm going to go do something else. I frankly really enjoyed that. And one of the things which I never thought I've said it here in the last few press conferences, is that I never realized my family is very close. Barbara and I have started a thing, I guess about a year ago, have started having the kids over on Sunday with their families for dinner. Many families around the world do that. We never did. I played golf every Sunday. So it never became anything. And frankly it's been wonderful. I've just enjoyed having the kids over and having the grandkids and having the house be torn apart (laughter), and you're watching them all like a hawk, because you never know where they're going to be or what they're going to get into. And that's been a lot of fun. And I really look forward to that. Something I never had to do before.

I think when I plan to go some place or do something, I can go do what I want to, not having to worry about having to get organized for the next golf game. If I could still play golf and could get organized and could go play, I'd certainly do that. But I've let that and I've tried a little bit over the last few years to do that, but I know my golf game isn't the same. My body doesn't like it.

I practice, I hit balls, and I'm miserable. After I go practice or play, the next 12 hours I don't feel very good, I'm just hurting. And that's not a way to be. I never did that before. I might hurt a little before, and go do my exercises, and I feel great. Today I go play golf, I go home and do my exercises and I still feel miserable. So that's not the way to really enjoy playing golf.

So I don't think I'll have any problem. I go home and I have a hard time filling a little bit of the void at home because when I'm at home before, I go to the office, I do my things I'm doing at home, but I always used to always go to the golf course, too, and get myself ready for the next time I play. And I go home now, I'm not getting myself ready for the next time I play, and what am I going to do today? I've got a little bit of that.

But when I'm on the road I'm busier than I've ever been. I don't think that I ever put 500 hours on my airplane, and I'll certainly put over 500 hours on the airplane this year, traveling around, doing golf course work and things. The reason obviously I don't is because I'd go one place and sit there for a week playing golf. So the plane would sit. Now I hit 4 or 5 or 6 stops in a week, so the plane is in the air and we do do more traveling. I don't think that's going to be a big problem for me.

Q. I just was wondering how you approach playing this golf course today as opposed to in '70, '80, '84, has the equipment allowed to play you virtually the same or not?

JACK NICKLAUS: This is the one golf course where I don't think outside of the tee shot at 4 and tee shot at 14, which are longer, but are almost marginally too long for me. Outside of that I don't think the golf course plays much differently. 13, I suppose a little bit, but not as much. I mean 13 doesn't have any forced carry type situations. If you hit it straight, you hit it straight. I suppose it is at 14, too. But I'm a little more dangerous at 14.

It's the one golf course where I can go back and play pretty much the same clubs that I played all my life, it's just a matter of execution and whether I can do that or not. That's why I like it.

End of FastScripts.

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